Samsung Galaxy Note II
• $679.97 (unlocked)
Last year I found myself surprisingly smitten with the original Shaquille-sized Samsung Galaxy Note, but my better half remained skeptical of the gargantuan smartphone's appeal and utility. So when the sequel arrived at our doorstep, I asked Emily to live with the updated and upgraded sequel for one month and tell me what she thought...Lo and behold, it took just a week before she was extolling the virtues of the Note II's even bigger 5.5" HD Super AMOLED Plus screen, the improved response using the S Pen, and the joys of the Jelly Bean operating system with LTE. As a writer for our cooking site, The Kitchn, and a dedicated note-taker and recipe researcher, she realized the Note II was actually designed for someone just like her: where voice and portability was secondary to Google apps and scheduling features.
She even ditched her trusty iPad during the review period, finding the Note II capable of filling in capably for tablet duties in and out of the kitchen, solid for smartphone functions, and even equipped for for some work usually done on the computer. Where once the S Pen was sluggish, Samsung has improved the digital stylus to the point its utility is now recommended. And thanks to the 1.6 GHz Samsung Exynos Quad-core processor and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update, handy features like Google Now improve the Android experience to the point where diehard iOS users (Emily was using Windows Phone, so no bias) have to admit a little envy and the operating system has smoothed out the performance hiccups that were noticeable with the original Note.
Between the usable screen space and the tight integration with Google applications, I think Samsung and Android have converted a once-skeptic into believing good things do exist over on the other side of the Android fence.